The Parkland College Blog

Fracking First Topic of Kaler Science Talks for Fall

UI engineering professor to discuss benefits of hydraulic fracturing process

The hot-button topic of fracking for oil and gas heads the list of James B. Kaler Science Lectures this fall at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College.

University of Illinois engineering professor Dr. David N. Ruzic will present "The Truth (and Huge Benefit) Behind Fracking and Pipelines," Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge. 

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for gas and oil, and building pipelines to deliver that gas and oil to where it is needed, has led to energy independence for North America and heralded a huge economic boom for the U.S. Yet the average citizen, and especially one who is young, typically holds a negative impression of these two technologies.

Ruzic will explain what fracking and pipelines are, how they are used, why they are beneficial compared to the alternatives, and why common misconceptions persist about the process.

Ruzic is the Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as director of the Center for Plasma Material Interactions. A UIUC faculty member for the last 34 years, he is a Fellow in three different societies and leads an active research group of over 40 people. The university has awarded him the Campus-wide Teaching Award, the College-wide Teaching Award, and several departmental teaching awards. One of his introductory courses on Energy was made into a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) in Coursera and is available for free on the “Go Illinois” website. Ruzic earned his PhD from Princeton University in 1984.
   
Following Ruzic’s talk, the Staerkel Planetarium will present its newest fulldome feature, “Experience the Aurora,” followed by its "Pink Floyd’s 'The Wall'" show. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full show schedule, visit the planetarium website or call 217/351-2446. 

New Show, Digital System to Debut in Planetarium Opener

"Experience the Aurora" to feature dramatic fulldome images from new Digistar 6

After a month's closure, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium will reopen to public audiences on the Sept. 7-8 weekend with a new operating system and a new fulldome show.

"Experience the Aurora," featuring fulldome, time-lapse imagery of the Northern Lights, will premiere Sept. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and run every Friday and Saturday night through October. The show will be presented on Staerkel's Digistar 6 operating system, an upgrade from the Digistar 4 system installed eight years ago. The planetarium has been closed since Aug. 8 to install the new system. 

Winner of two Telly Awards for video production,"Experience the Aurora" shares the science behind the aurora and tells the story of the quest to find and photograph the aurora. Its dramatic images involve high-resolution digital cameras outfitted with fisheye lenses. For the first time, the aurora has been captured as it was meant to be experienced, an immersive display covering the entire sky, according to Dave Leake, director of the planetarium.  

"Though computer visualizations are quite wonderful these days, we were intrigued that this show includes fisheye photography of this beautiful phenomenon," Leake remarked. "We hope audiences will be as amazed as we were!"

Leake explained that the Digistar 6 system contains new features that will be both visible and "under the hood." Tools such as auto-align and auto-blend will drastically reduce maintenance time by aligning projectors with the push of a button. Other D6 benefits for planetarium staff include a cloud-sourced STEAM library, a new NOAA Earth database, and a revised user interface. Audiences will be able to view various terrains including Earth and Mars as well as a volumetric Milky Way (i.e., shown more as a physical model than as a flat image).  

“We have a lot to learn before we reopen; our show producer, Waylena McCully, is busy converting many of our older shows to the new format," Leake said. "We're exited about having a new star field and other features to show off this season.”  

Funding for the upgrade comes from the Parkland Foundation, the Planetarium Revolving Fund and the Campus Master Plan. For a full schedule of fall 2018 planetarium programs, visit parkland.edu/planetarium or call the show hotline at 217/351-2446. 

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